Well…we’ve promised to be honest so here goes.
Monday was a near meltdown for both girls. Nothing we were not prepared for from every book, blog and parent who has had time to share their story of adoption of older children. It is to be expected. But, honestly, it is still hard, we knew it would be. To spend 14 weeks and nearly countless dollars, do all possible to be sure this is what each of them wants, and have them meltdown in a week and want to go back is a bit disconcerting regardless of how prepared you are!! But, we all stayed cool, including them. They awoke this morning (Tuesday) happy and calm and are off to the farm for the day with Dad while I do some necessary paperwork to get them on our health insurance policy, laundry, find the floor of our bedroom and the like.
Church is really hard for them. We experienced this in Kiev and again on Sunday. That seems to be the thing that is the greatest contrast, it is also the most immersion in English they have gotten this week, they really struggle over church. We attend an Independent Christian church that uses mostly contemporary music. The service is structured but undoubtedly very different than the liturgical, formal, headcoverings for women, no chairs but standing, service of the Russian Orthodox church they have attended a couple of times each year. From what we can deduct their loyalty to this religion comes from the love of a lady who came to the orphanage and shared Bible stories with them. They love this lady and she loves them. It is proof of the power of human relationships. Of all the things that are different (language, food, clothes, a family) church seems to unnerve them most. Or at least it is the straw that breaks the camels back.
On Monday I did a little shopping with two of them and Barney spent most of the day on Google translator trying to help them process this huge transition they are experiencing. A concern we saw in Ukraine was the constant expectation of the entire orphanage of our English speaking one to translate. Someone was yelling his name constantly. It was overdone there but at home it is unfair to him and putting him in tough positions. We are going to Google translator for anything emotionally charged. Facts like pass the communion trays in church and don’t take one and don’t ride your bike into people’s yards are fine but upset kids talking about their stresses are not. He is here as our son, not as a translator and we made this point to him privately and then enforced it. We will be extra vigilant to see that he is protected.
We have been amazed from every blog we read that while in Ukraine most of these older children, not all, but most, are so anxious and willing to be adopted, and then struggle with the reality of it when they arrive home. We talked to our kids at length over the 10 weeks we were there and they knew what the rules and expectations would be, and they do not deny that, but living it is much harder, and I suspect, more humbling, than they could envision 6000 miles from reality.
We understand the humility, we lived it for 14 weeks in Ukraine with the language barrier and food and cultural differences and we were in our very Americanized apartment doing life the way we do it. They are in a new home with everything new and all things familiar gone. We read in one book that an adoptive child described it as if the door to their past has not only closed but when they look back it has disappeared. It is a perilous balance as parents to make the call as to how much to allow them to keep contact with their former life. We have been warned by many who have walked this path, some more than once, in the past two years that there is no moderation in this, they will be a hull living in your house while their heart and soul are in Ukraine and they will spend 24 hours a day on the internet maintaining these connections and never establish any new relationships or language. It really gets ugly when you allow it and then have to stop it.
They really are doing remarkably well. They do not get angry or nasty. There were some tears but they were good release and healthy. It does not make us angry, we stay calm and feel so very sad for them. We thought numerous times in Ukraine that the girls were going to bail out. We were surprised when they didn’t. We never pressured them to come, each time they questioned we offered the option to stay. We took no hostages, they willingly decided on their own to come. Now they have to own and live with the decision they made. Not easy. But no one ever said this would be easy, not for them or for us. The first week when we filed our petition for court I asked their dear teacher that we all loved how she thought this would go. “Rocky at first, likely very rocky, but then it will be good and they will do well.” I think she knew them well and what this would involve. I find reassurance in her belief that it will even out and be good with time.
After dinner we went for our daily bike ride and early on the younger girl braked with her front brake only and threw herself over the handlebars. She and I returned home and got her lacerated chin bandaged and she did not want stitches but to rejoin the others and finish the ride so we did. When we returned home it was still concerning so after talking with her and finding her open at that time to medical care I took she and Alex, to translate and offer support, to the Emergency room. The wait was long and at first the doctor was pleased with the butterfly bandaging we had done but I encouraged him to remove it and look at it. He decided to do 4 stitches and she was so brave. It was really a sweet time with the two of them. Bonding comes strongest in crisis so we pray this was a healing time on more fronts than just the physical. She was laughing and smiling, making frequent eye contact with me, enjoying the special time just for her and the 1:30 a.m. McDonald’s fries and smoothies I got for them as a treat on the way home. 🙂 God uses all things for good…certainly not what we would have chosen within a week of arriving home but He will use it for good.
Mom and Dad’s biggest struggle right now is fatigue and keeping them all productively busy each day. It will be a great day when they have more to do and can fill time on their own. It will be good for them as well as they will feel more independent and in control. We have books, legos and K’nex, etc. for them but there is still a sense of needing to fill every minute that is very exhausting for all of us. We understand it is a natural part of the process of assimilating them into the family.
So, if you are journeying with us in prayer we are praying for the peace that passes understanding, for each of them and for us, and for rest and wisdom to use each day the most wisely to best meet their needs as well as the accomplishing the work we have to do. Hopefully we’ll soon get the garden planted and be ready to move onto finishing their bedrooms and getting things in place and feeling more like home. Then back to work on the rental properties that lack finishing and renting.
God has blessed us with work to do, the health to do it and now these very able and willing children who enjoy joining in the work and seeing the goal accomplished. Barney was amazed last week when they were mowing the grass at the farm and the younger girl was motioning to him that they needed to rake up the grass. If you’ve never been to Ukraine, it is a rare place that has any grass. There was one place that we walked by each day that had landscaping and mowed and raked grass. She must have learned it from our days walking to and from the bus by this property. The next time they went he loaded rakes on the truck and the two girls took them from the truck and set in to rake the grass with no instruction. They really are incredible kids and we pray for wisdom to train them in the way they should go.